Make a day of it with your dog

The Daily Telegraph - Gardening - - Front Page -

Tra­di­tion­ally, gardeners have a sus­pi­cious at­ti­tude to­wards dogs (don’t even men­tion cats) but is the tide turn­ing in favour of horti-minded hounds? Welsh ter­rier Lil and Tim Richard­son sniff out the best gar­dens to visit

For many of us in Britain – a quar­ter of house­holds, ac­cord­ing to The Ken­nel Club – a dog is part of life and a part of the fam­ily, so tak­ing it with us to visit gar­dens seems a nat­u­ral enough de­ci­sion. But stop right there. A great many no­table and his­toric gar­dens in Britain, in­clud­ing nearly all National Trust prop­er­ties, refuse to let dogs in to “or­na­men­tal” ar­eas, though they will usu­ally al­low them on leads in wood­lands, parkland and other parts of the wider estate. Is this jus­ti­fi­able? And what do dogs get out of a visit to a gar­den, any­way?

I de­cided to put this to the test by tak­ing my own dog, two-year-old Welsh ter­rier Lil, to a cou­ple of gar­dens that do ac­cept dogs, and by can­vass­ing views for and against the mix­ing of cu­ri­ous ca­nines and fine hor­ti­cul­ture.

First stop was Her­st­mon­ceux Cas­tle, in Sus­sex, which has a no­tably dogfriendly pol­icy, mak­ing it clear on its web­site (as few prop­er­ties do) that dogs are not barred from any part of the estate. On ar­rival Lil made friends with Bailey, a Ger­man short-haired pointer be­long­ing to estate man­ager Tim Lower. “I would say that at least half of the vis­i­tors to the prop­erty ar­rive with a dog in the car,” Tim says, adding that a dog-friendly pol­icy has in­creased vis­i­tor num­bers. He re­ports very few prob­lems with dog mess, and in fact strug­gles to re­call when he last had to “clean up”.

In Tim’s view, a visit to a place like Her­st­mon­ceux is of­ten the hap­pi­est time for both dog and owner. Of his own dog, he says, “He knows if I’m ill, and equally he knows if I’m happy. I think dogs do re­spond when they know that the owner is re­laxed and happy – it means they are, too.”

This the­ory will ring true to any dog owner. A gar­den-writer col­league re­cently took her dog to an an­i­mal psy­chol­o­gist be­cause he seemed to be stressed; the psy­chol­o­gist’s re­sponse was to ask whether she was stressed in her own life. When my friend con­firmed that this was the case, the

ad­vice was: “Calm down, and the dog will calm down.” It worked.

In the gar­den at Her­st­mon­ceaux, the two gardeners I en­counter have no prob­lem with Lil nos­ing about in the herba­ceous borders. One even takes time out to stroke her (with­out know­ing I am a jour­nal­ist). For the dog, the main at­trac­tion is the panoply of smells a gar­den has to of­fer, as well as a cer­tain plea­sure in ex­plor­ing the box hedges. But the most ex­cit­ing mo­ment is an en­counter with a pair of work­ing cocker spaniels who are vis­it­ing with their own­ers. Re­fresh­ment (for the dogs) is pro­vided at the café in the form of two freshly topped wa­ter bowls.

By way of con­trast, we go on to a small pri­vate gar­den at 96 Ash­ford Road, in Hast­ings, one of an im­pres­sive 1,584 NGS gar­dens open­ing for the National Gar­dens Scheme this year that wel­come dogs. Own­ers An­drew and Lynda Hayler seem par­tic­u­larly gen­er­ous in this re­gard, be­cause they have cre­ated a re­fined Ja­panese-style gar­den and do not even own a dog them­selves. Aren’t they wor­ried that a hound will mess it up in some way?

But An­drew ex­plains: “We want to get a mini schnau­zer when I re­tire in three years’ time. We’ve put a lot of re­search into the best breed for us.”

Im­me­di­ately on en­ter­ing this gar­den, Lil gets ex­tremely ex­cited, strain­ing at the lead – but any no­tion that this is be­cause of the per­fect hostas, beau­ti­ful cut-leaf maples or ef­fi­gies of the Bud­dha is dis­pelled by the rev­e­la­tion that foxes are reg­u­lar vis­i­tors here. Town-based ter­ri­ers are all too fa­mil­iar with the an­tics of Rey­nard, who cannot be tol­er­ated. Af­ter a few min­utes, Lil has pa­trolled the perime­ter and calmed down some­what, sniff­ing the pink cherry- blos­som petals on the ground which stick to her nose as she in­ves­ti­gates the bam­boo tea house and drinks from a pud­dle in a dec­o­ra­tive stone basin.

So what is the prob­lem with dogs in gar­dens? Ac­cord­ing to Mike Cal­nan, head of gar­dens at the National Trust, there are many po­ten­tial is­sues. “We leave it up to in­di­vid­ual prop­er­ties to de­cide whether to al­low dogs into gar­dens or not,” he says. “Some do, some don’t. It all de­pends on the place.

“Small gar­dens some­times don’t al­low them in, or pro­vide al­ter­na­tive ar­eas to ex­er­cise dogs. We know that some vis­i­tors don’t like dogs, or are

One man: Lil the Welsh ter­rier and Tim take a break, top; Ge­of­frey the dachshund, above, on NGS duty

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.